This year's Paris auto show will mark the start of the electric-vehicle era as global automakers unveil EVs aimed at the mass market.
Renault will use the event to roll out EVs that will go on sale in mid-2011 as part of the French company's ambitious bid to become the first volume automaker to make electric cars accessible to the mass market. Renault expects 200,000 annual sales within six years.
The many EV debuts will include electric scooters from BMW's Mini and Daimler's Smart division and Kia's quirky Pop city car concept.
Other than EVs, Ford Motor Co. will debut a high-performance version of the new Ford Focus, while Mercedes-Benz and Audi debut entrants in the highly profitable niche for premium coupe-styled four-door sedans.
Here's a sampling of some of the production and concept vehicles making world debuts in Paris during press days Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.
Audi will debut an EV concept that could preview the brand's new R4 small sports car. If built, the R4 would be a Porsche Boxster rival and a smaller sibling to Audi's R8 supercar. The concept will be a convertible version of the e-tron coupe seen at the Detroit auto show this year. Audi also will show the production A7. The coupe-styled four-door sedan, positioned between the A6 and A8, will arrive in European showrooms in November with prices starting at 51,650 euros in Germany (about $66,728 at current exchange rates). U.S. sales begin in mid-2011. U.S. prices haven't been announced.
Even wealthy buyers are demanding greener cars, and Bentley will bow to the trend by adding a more fuel-efficient powertrain to the new Continental GT coupe. The car will get a 4.0-liter V-8 engine co-developed with Audi. The engine reduces carbon dioxide emissions 40 percent compared with the current six-liter, 12-cylinder engine, which gets a power upgrade. Sales of the new GT coupe will begin shortly after its Paris debut. Updated versions of other Continentals will follow over the next two years, with the Flying Spur expected in 2012 and the GTC convertible in 2013.
BMW will unveil the new X3 crossover and a concept for a new 6-series coupe.
The second-generation X3 is larger and lighter than the current model, and its bigger size better positions the X3 neatly between the X1 and X5. Unlike the current X3, which is built by Magna Steyr in Austria, the new model will be built in BMW's U.S. factory in Spartanburg, S.C. The X3 will go on sale in Europe in November with prices starting at 39,100 euros in Germany (about $50,514).
The new 6 series will have subtler styling than the current car, which was launched as a coupe in 2003 and a convertible a year later. The latest generation will follow the brand's sleeker design, already seen on the new 7- and 5-series sedans.